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imperialism & war

Many in Arab media fail to concede fall of regime

Many journalists across the Arab world, some of whom are prominent in the Arabic media, were paid monthly by the regime, Nassif told Gulf News over the phone from the Lebanese capital.
Many in media fail to concede fall of regime
By Mohammed Almezel, Gulf News, 11-04-2003

(Bahrain) Many in the Arabic media, for long staunch supporters of the now-collapsed Iraqi regime, seemed reluctant yesterday to concede the fall of Saddam Hussain's regime, and preferred to tell their readers instead that the "dark day of U.S.-led humiliating occupation" has befallen on Baghdad.

But some newspapers challenged the Arab conventional tradition of not interfering in other countries affairs and boldly announced the "fall of the tyrant" with pictures of the vanished Iraqi leader's crumpling statue splashed on the front pages.

The memorable image of Saddam's statue being pulled down by an American tank in central Baghdad made the full front page of the pan-Arab London-based Asharq Al Awsat . "... and fell the regime of Saddam," read the headline.

"Saddam has collapsed... (But) Iraq has triumphed," read a large red headline on the front page of the Bahraini daily Al Ayam, above a similar picture.

However, Beirut's As Safir, self-dubbed "the Arab's newspaper in Lebanon", chose to avoid the now-famous image. "Baghdad under darkness of occupation," read its headline.

Likewise, Al Ahram, Egypt's largest state-owned newspaper in Egypt, avoided the name 'Saddam' in its main front page headline. "Central and security authorities in Baghdad have collapsed and the U.S. forces control city neighbourhoods," was the main headline.

Similarly, Sharjah-based Al Khaleej said: "Iraqi regime collapses and Baghdad now under occupation", but failed to mention the fall of Saddam.

There are three different currents in the Arabic media when it comes to dealing with the Iraqi issue, a prominent Bahraini journalist said.

There are those who supported Saddam all along and viewed him as 'the long-sought hero to unify the Arabs', Ibrahim Bashmi, managing director of Al Ayam said.

He said others, who could be described as 'liberals', have realised early on that he was just another dictator under which the Iraqis have been suffering. "And there have been the "mercenary journalists" who were paid by the Iraqi regime."

The images of the hundreds of Iraqis dancing on the broken hull of a statue of Saddam in Baghdad have been welcomed by all of the civilised world, said an editorial of the Jeddah-based English daily Arab News.

"Saddam was a dictator and accordingly was hated by most of his people. That they are rid of him is a good thing, and to argue otherwise would be not only foolish, but cruel," it stressed.

But on the front page of Lebanon's As Safir, there was a different story. An editorial, signed by the daily's owner, Talal Salman, urged the Iraqis to "rise up and fight the American occupation and the CIA-agents," referring apparently to the exiled Iraqi opposition leaders who began arriving in their country.

"What could be more humiliating to the glorious people of Iraq than to be ruled by the Anglo-American occupiers and their CIA-paid stooges," it said.

It will take sometime for those, like As Safir's writer, who for long saw Saddam as the new Saladin to realise he was nothing but a self-serving dictator, Bashmi said. "I honestly hope it would not take long. They must admit they have for years ignored the pain of the Iraqi people under this man's bloody rule."

As for the "media for hire", they have already changed course and turned to the other side - "the victorious U.S.-led allies", said George Nassif, senior commentator at the Beirut-based daily An Nahar.

Saddam's regime was widely known for its handsome "contributions" to many Arab media organisations which it was bale to recruit since the war with Iran, from 1980 to 1988.

Many journalists across the Arab world, some of whom are prominent in the Arabic media, were paid monthly by the regime, Nassif told Gulf News over the phone from the Lebanese capital.

"I was stunned by some of these newspapers when Saddam invaded Kuwait (in 1990)," said Bashmi. "They even refused to condemn a naked aggression against another Arab state. They told their readers 'it was the right thing to do to realise the dream of the Arab unity'!"

"You will be surprised how fast these opportunistic organisations concede to the emerging reality and give up the usual Saddam praise-songs to which they have accustomed their reader for years," commented Nassif.

"I would not like to generalise, but there have been quite a few organisations, in Lebanon and other Arab states, that were financed by Saddam," he noted.

With the Saddam "money pipeline" obviously dried up, they feel they have to embrace the anti-Saddam alliance.

Nassif pointed out that a Lebanese newspaper, which would not be named here, has for the last three weeks been promising its readers "Saddam's men" would "eat the enemy soldiers alive" in Baghdad, but yesterday told them the Iraqi leader has "cowardly" escaped to North Korea.

"Believe this is only on example of many that you will see in the coming days," he added.

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